Food Allergy Awareness | My Child’s Allergic Reaction

Beach Allergic Reaction

Each year, my family takes a trip down to 30A in Florida. For as long as I can remember, we’ve picked up donuts from The Donut Hole to enjoy one morning of our vacation. Knowing my 3-year-old son’s allergies to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, my thoughtful brother and sister-in-law made a special trip to a bakery that sells vegan muffins (so egg-free) and other baked goods. They did their homework, asking the owner of the bakery about specific items and whether or not they contained my son’s allergens. They were directed toward several different nut-free, vegan options (or so they were told).

Excited to have found a special treat for my little guy to enjoy as we ate our donuts, we sat down for breakfast together. My son dove into his vanilla muffin along with the rest of his breakfast. Later, he got up from the table not acting like himself. When I asked him what was wrong, he quietly replied, “I don’t know.” We had just discussed the fact that it was our last day at the beach, so I assumed he was sad about that and didn’t push him to talk much more.

We proceeded to change into our swimsuits, lather up with sunscreen, and walk down to the beach. I was carrying my sleeping 6 month old, but when mom finally arrived with my 3-year-old, she commented that he was “moving at a glacial pace.”

He played in the sand for a little while with my dad and brother. A little later, he asked for a snack but didn’t really eat much. I knew something was up when he asked to sit in my lap. This kid had been sprinting up and down the beach all week! Something wasn’t right. He continued to become more and more clingy. At one point, he was sitting under the umbrella covered in a beach towel telling me he had a “feber” (AKA fever). He began asking me for medicine.

At this point, I also thought he might have gotten a little cool in the shade or that maybe he needed to go potty, so I began walking with him back up to our house. He didn’t want to walk, so I ended up carrying him the rest of the way. As we were walking, he began to scratch. By the time we’d gotten to the house, he was itching all over and clawing his neck, legs…really, his entire body.

Finally out of the sun, I was able to see his skin more clearly. It looked like he had a terrible, blistery sunburn. He sat on the tile floor and scratched while I called the bakery to re-check the ingredients of his muffin. Again, I spoke to the owner and was told the muffin did not contain eggs or nuts; however, this time he offered to have someone else check and call me back. I continued to observe my son while I called my mom to come up from the beach because I suspected an allergic reaction. My husband wasn’t able to come on this trip, so I called to let him know as well.

When the bakery called me back, I answered and began asking more questions about the specific egg-free, nut-free flavors the bakery offered. The woman who returned my call listed several options, but vanilla wasn’t one of them. When I asked about the vanilla, I was finally told, “Oh no. The vanilla muffin isn’t vegan. It contains eggs.” My heart dropped as I quickly hung up and went to get the Epipen. As soon as my parents walked into the house, we administered the Epipen amidst lots of screams and tears from my little guy.

Those moments and the ones that followed were so scary and heartbreaking. My son, already not feeling well, knew he was going to have to get a shot and was basically hysterical. As a mother, I was scared to death not knowing how quickly his reaction was going to progress. Many people don’t realize that allergic reactions can worsen over the course of several hours and that antihistamines (which my son takes every morning) can mask certain aspects of allergic reactions.

I was devastated, knowing he trusts me to never give him foods that would hurt him or make him sick.

We rushed, flashers on, to the nearest hospital. Though his heart was racing, my little guy was having a hard time staying awake. We watched videos and encouraged him to keep talking to us on our 15-minute drive to the hospital.

Fortunately, the emergency room staff was wonderful, and we were in a room within 5 minutes of our arrival. They administered a hefty dose of strong steroids and Benadryl and set him up on a heart monitor for the next several hours to watch for any rebound reactions as the Epipen wore off. Fortunately, his breathing was not compromised and his airways stayed open. We had lots of people praying for us by that point, too. I’m not sure what would’ve happened without his Epipen or morning dose of hydroxyzine. I am so thankful that I was with him and that my family, doctors, PA, and nurses knew how to care for him as well.

The bakery owner was very apologetic, tearfully offering to pay for all of my son’s medical expenses; however, this was a life-threatening emergency that could’ve had a completely different outcome due to this oversight and not taking our inquiry related to my child’s food allergies seriously enough. And this from the owner of the bakery! I was baffled, and it honestly makes me exponentially more wary of taking my son out to eat.

I recognize the extra effort that goes into researching the items that are served at bakeries and restaurants when patrons report an allergy and ask about ingredients. It’s additional time and work in a fast-paced industry. At the same time, I believe people not only need more training and awareness of the seriousness of food allergies, but our society, especially those who work in foodservice establishments, also need a little more empathy.

Though he has such a sweet attitude about it, it brings tears to my eyes to think that my son can’t just eat a regular piece of cake at a birthday party or enjoy our tradition of donuts at The Donut Hole. I hate that he can’t order whatever sounds good from a restaurant menu. It’s nerve-wrecking to know he has to rely on other people to tell him which foods are safe and which ones are not at this point in his life. It requires quite a bit of trust on his part, and it requires a ton of our trust in food service establishments.

I share our story in hopes that those who work in food service will see my son and others who have food allergies as real people who want to be normal, who want to belong, who don’t want to have to live in a bubble and eat at home all the time. I share it for friends and family members of those with food allergies to have a greater awareness of what allergic reactions might look like and how to react, knowing that my son’s reaction could’ve been much worse and progressed much faster. I share it so that others will understand the reasons why parents worry so much about foods served at school, parties, and other events.

There is no shame in asking lots of questions and reminding and re-reminding others about a loved one’s food allergies, and I’ll continue to model these behaviors (carrying the Epipen, asking questions, etc.) and to teach my little one how to take his allergies seriously, too.

Our story has a happy ending that includes memories of Veggie Tales videos and Minions stickers at the hospital, and I’m pretty sure my son is no longer worried he has a hole in his leg from the Epipen (yes, he asked). My prayer is that our story somehow prevents more stories of allergic reactions and gives additional insight about how to react with respect.


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Nourish Your Noggin with These 5 Brain Foods

The human brain is one of our most powerful and valuable organs. Though it accounts for only 2% of our body’s total weight, the brain requires a lot of energy and several key nutrients to function at its best. Last month, I had the opportunity to talk about nutrition for brain health on Local Memphis Live, and of course, I didn’t want you to miss out, so here are 5 brain-boosting foods to help you ensure your noggin stays nourished…

berries, brain food, antioxidantsBerries

Berries contain flavonoids, a specific group of potent antioxidants that give berries their beautiful colors. They also play a role in numerous cognitive skills like learning and decision making all while protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.

Incorporating berries into yogurt, oatmeal, or salads not only adds fresh, natural sweetness. Berries also contain antioxidants that help boost cognition, coordination, and memory.

Think you can only get a brain boost from berries during summer months? Think again…You can get your berry fix year round! Buy them fresh in the summer, frozen in the winter.

Eggs Brain Food

Eggs

If you’ve been avoiding eggs out of concern for the cholesterol and/or fat content, it’s time to add them back in. Research is now suggesting that eggs do not contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, our brains need cholesterol and fat to function at their best. With the brain being our fattiest organ, made up of 65% fat, including 25% of our body’s total cholesterol, you can be confident eggs are an egg-cellent choice and nutritional powerhouses.

Eggs contain choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients that many Americans are deficient in. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. For example, studies have linked acetylcholine deficiencies to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

Eggs also contain B vitamins, folate, and vitamin D…nutrients that play a crucial role in brain health.

Tempted to ditch the yolk? Don’t do it! Eat the whole egg as the yolk contains most of the nutrients your brain needs. Plus, the protein and fat is likely to keep you satisfied much longer than that morning bagel alone!

Salmon, Brain Food

Salmon

When you’re researching (or googling) “what to eat for brain health,” you’ll begin to notice that DHA or omega-3 fatty acid is one of the single most important elements required for optimal brain health. With the brain being made mostly of fat, our brains need those Omega-3’s!

Omega-3s are strongly anti-inflammatory which is great news as inflammation has been linked to multiple mental health concerns. For example, increased Omega-3 intake may help to alleviate a spectrum of mental health concerns, from anxiety and irritability to depression and even schizophrenia. In contrast, insufficient DHA is a potential factor in depression, bipolar disorder, premature brain aging, age-related cognitive decline, brain shrinkage, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids containing DHA can be found in oily fish like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and tuna. These types of fish are also excellent sources of protein which is needed to form mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine as well as B12, an essential vitamin for a healthy brain and nervous system. It’s ideal to include these types of fish twice per week.

Walnut, Brain Food

Walnuts

Well, if you hadn’t noticed yet, the low-fat diet trend has officially been a “big fat failure,” especially when it comes to brain health. So many “brain foods” are loaded with healthy fats, and walnuts are no exception…plus, they look like little brains!

Walnuts contain a number of compounds that protect our neurons from injury or degeneration, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. Bottom line: Research shows walnut consumption may support brain health.

Snack on walnuts, sprinkle them into your oatmeal, or even try out one of my favorite recipes: Walnut & Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken.

Steak, Vitamin B12, Brain Food

Beef

That’s right…BEEF is a brain food! Meat eaters can get a brain boost from beef, which provides plenty of energizing and balancing B vitamins, specifically B12 which is only found in animal foods.

Low B12 levels have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss. If your levels are lower than they should be, you may also experience symptoms like poor memory, depression and fatigue, so fire up the grill and enjoy this nutritious and delicious meat!


I recently came across a quote that said, “Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it.” Even though this post highlights only 5 specific foods, it’s clear that there are many more that give our brains a boost, so So if you want to keep your mind nourished and healthy, getting a variety and balance of nutrients is a no-brainer!

What’s your favorite brain food and how do you incorporate it into your meals or snacks?

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How do you “eat an elephant”, enjoy a burger, and achieve a healthy lifestyle?

National Nutrition Month, How to Eat an elephant, enjoy a burger, and achieve a healthy lifestyle Imagine looking at a juicy hamburger that is piled high with cheese, avocado, veggies, and all the fixin’s. While thinking about how delicious the burger looks, you approach it with one major reservation and ask yourself the tough question: “How in the world am I going to wrap my mouth around that first bite?” You may have a similar feeling when it comes to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

March is National Nutrition Month. I wrote an article last year for Good Health magazine to support the 2015 theme: “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” I thought I would repost the article here although this year’s theme is “Savor the flavor of eating right.”

When it comes to nutrition, it is difficult to know how to begin the journey toward healthier eating habits and it’s easy to “miss the forest for the trees” as the proverbial saying goes, especially when we are overwhelmed with mixed or distorted messages about nutrition and overall health.

You wouldn’t give up your hopes of eating that delicious burger just because it seemed too big, would you? Don’t give up on a healthier lifestyle either! While it’s easy to get bogged down wondering about all the details, take a step back and focus on the big picture in order to determine what’s most important and where to set your first goals when it comes to nutrition.

Focus on real food.

Memphis Nutrition Group defines real food as “anything that can be grown or killed.” You can’t get much more straightforward than that definition!  (Thanks, Leslie Schilling!) Are you eating primarily real food or processed food products? Sometimes a healthy lifestyle can be as simple as getting back to the basics when it comes to food selection.

Find a balance.

A healthy lifestyle does not mean thinking in terms of absolutes: all or nothing, good or bad, and “should” or “shouldn’t.” Rather than only having two options, there are many more choices that fall somewhere within the spectrum and provide balance. Finding balance means choosing nutrient-rich, real foods most of the time and sometimes selecting and savoring foods you enjoy regardless of nutrient quality too.

Foster progress, not perfection.

How do you define progress? Progress toward a healthy lifestyle is not always related to the number of pounds lost or the amount of willpower exhibited. No one’s diet or lifestyle will ever be perfect, so try not to judge or be too hard on yourself.

Remember: Habits take time to form and sometimes even longer to break; therefore, the journey to a healthy lifestyle requires patience and acceptance of where you are in the process. How do you “eat an elephant”, enjoy a burger, or achieve a healthy lifestyle? Take one bite at a time, setting realistic goals in order to yield satisfying, lasting results in the end.


 

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Wait…Why are we talking about my weight?

Raise your hand if you look forward to going to the doctor…

People, Weight Bias, Weight Stigma

Me neither.

Not long ago, I had a check-up that I had been dreading more than usual. I contemplated canceling several times. As I was considering whether or not I would go to the appointment, I thought about all that would be done at the check-up. One of the first things that came to mind was getting my weight checked. Lately, I’ve encouraged several of my clients to decline weighing at the doctor’s office if not medically necessary for their care as few of my clients look at the number on the scale as “interesting data.” I felt convicted to practice what I had been preaching to my clients, so I pondered what it would be like if I said “no” to the scale that day. When I started thinking about speaking up and not getting weighed, I -much to my surprise- started to feel nervous…my heart was beating fast!

I’ve had clients share that it’s easier to just get weighed to avoid getting questions or receiving funny looks from the nurse who is in charge of getting vital signs. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. I, too, was wrestling with the idea of refusing to be weighed! Many people fear making their doctor mad, seeming ungrateful for their help, or acting like they know more than their doctor. I’ve also had clients share that they were treated differently after refusing to be weighed at a doctor’s appointment, but it wasn’t until this particular day that I began to understand why my clients struggle so much with the scale in the doctor’s office.

I chickened out.

It truly felt easier to just step on the scale that day. The nurse took note of my weight. I saw my doctor, expressed my concerns, and attempted to get my questions answered. During my appointment, the doctor was not particularly forthcoming with lots of helpful information, but I was – for some reason- completely shocked at what she was forthcoming about. Right before walking out of the room, she decided to tell me, “And just so you know, you’ve gained [x] pounds over the last year.”

I stared at her blankly, basically in shock, wondering why she felt the need to tell me this information. I certainly hadn’t asked about my weight. Before I could formulate a response (or close my mouth after my jaw had dropped), she continued, “You’re still fine. It’s just something I tell everyone just so they know.” I think I managed to utter an puny “OK?” before she left the room.

Immediately, I was so disappointed in myself. I began thinking of all the things I should’ve said in that moment. Even more, I began thinking about my clients and the weight bias and weight stigma they have experienced. My weight remains in a range that is deemed “healthy” or “normal” by the medical community’s [sometimes arbitrary] standards, so IWait...Why are we talking about my weight? Weight Stigma & Bias by Healthcare Providers cringed thinking about how this conversation may have gone for a person who was considered “overweight” or “obese.” I thought to myself, “No wonder people decide to delay or avoid medical care!

I also thought about those who have struggled to gain the weight they need to be healthy. Hearing this comment could’ve been a major trigger for them. What if a patient gains muscle, making them stronger and healthier? What if the patient was recovering from an eating disorder? What about all of the other factors that can lead to weight gain?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt terrible about this one-sided conversation. It’s estimated that 20-30% of people will be strongly impacted by weight stigma from professionals but will not speak up for themselves, even when they know the truth about weight and health and want to be treated accordingly. The percentage is probably higher for those who receive unsolicited comments about their weight.

When it comes to weighing and weight, what can healthcare providers say and do to respect their patients?

What will I do differently next time (and what could you do in a similar situation)?

  • Plan and rehearse some responses beforehand to prevent being caught off-guard and subsequently left speechless when comments about weight are made or when asked to step on the scale.
  • Ask my provider, “How is my weight connected to the medical problem I have?”
  • Do my best to remain calm and engaged throughout the conversation. Ask as many questions as are needed to fully understand my provider’s perspective and assess whether or not it lines up with the research.
  • Consider sharing research with the provider.

Unsolicited comments about weight are not appropriate. Period. Fortunately, I’m at a point in my life where I feel confident and content with my health, shape, and size. It certainly hasn’t always been that way for me, and I’d venture to say it isn’t that way for most people in this world. As I look back on this experience, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my perspective and hopefully prevent similar doctor’s office incidents. I’ve learned a lot from this recent check-up and couldn’t let it go before sharing it with you.

I’d love for you to send me your feedback and share your experiences. Have you ever been the recipient of an inappropriate comment about your weight? If so, how did you respond?


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Fight the Good Fight: Health Heroes vs. Diet Industry Villains

What makes a hero?

A hero could be someone who saves lives or protects society from evil (like Superman), and a hero could also take the form of the person you strive to be. Either way, a hero is someone who departs from society’s norms to accomplish a greater goal.

Diet Industry & Nutrition Misinformation “Villains”

We live in a fast-paced world where – sadly – diets have become the norm, and the focus has shifted to appearance and numbers (weight, BMI, calorie-counting, etc.) rather than overall health. We are accustomed to obtaining answers to our questions in a single Google search or a quick click on the Internet. Let’s face it…our society prefers simple answers and fast results. Americans have spent billions of dollars supporting the diet industry that emphasizes quick weight loss rather than long-term health. The marketing of diets is alluring, but research suggests the diet industry promises way more than it can deliver in terms of lasting weight management and health.

In addition to easy answers and immediate results, our society takes great interest in food and nutrition; however, nutrition misinformation runs rampant in our culture. Since we’re still going with the “hero” metaphor, you could say the diet industry and nutrition misinformation serve as “villains.” They perpetuate the destructive diet mentality. It seems most nutrition-related messages come from the media, friends, and family, but how often do they come from Registered Dietitians? Furthermore, how many nutrition messages come from nutrition experts who reject diets, instead advocating a real food, non-diet approach?

What would life look like if we became our own heroes, fighting and conquering these “villains” who shamelessly promote the diet mentality?

What if we moved away from focusing on numbers as measures of success and instead focused on health, self-care, and fueling well?

Sharaze Colley, a client, blogger at “Passing Pinwheels”, and certainly a hero in my book writes about her experiences in moving toward health and diet freedom. She states, “I haven’t had to count calories or drastically change my diet. I don’t stress. There’s almost no real limits to what I am ‘allowed’ to eat. It’s nice. And freeing.”

Rejecting diet industry villains does not have to be complicated. In fact, diets usually end up being more complicated than a real food, non-diet approach. Though this approach often takes longer and requires perseverance, it ultimately leads to a lifetime of better health, stronger metabolism, and peace with food.

Colley states, “And that’s the amazing thing. I’m eating more. I’m not starving all the time. Fad dieting tells me the opposite should be happening, that the answer is always ‘eat less, exercise more.’ But that’s not always the case…I’m starting to think it generally isn’t that simple… something I know, but hard to actually live by because of all the messages I get all the time about food being the enemy.”

During the process of rejecting the diet mentality, remember…even Superman had his kryptonite. Likewise, sometimes the number on the scale or the nutrition label can become our kryptonite, blinding us to our progress toward health and peace with food.

Heroes are not immune to doubt, fears, and trials, but they ARE willing to face the things that scare them like moving away from diets and numbers in order to reach a greater goal. Don’t fall victim to the diet mentality another day! Become the hero who stands up to this villain and fights for overall health and peace with food.


*Note* This article was originally written for Good Health Magazine. I made some minor changes before posting here. Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

How to Make SMART New Year’s Resolutions

How to Make Smart, Realistic New Year's Resolutions

There’s good news and bad news related to New Year’s resolutions…

The bad news: A Journal of Clinical Psychology study reported that 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months, and only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolution by the end of the year.

The good news (if you’re still reading…): Another study published in the same journal stated that people who-despite the statistics-make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who don’t make resolutions at all.

It seems many people have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions, and in my professional opinion, I can see how certain types of resolutions can backfire…especially those centered around strict rules and all-or-nothing thinking.

On the bright side, New Year’s resolutions can be made in a “SMART” way, so based on the research…I’ll go out on a limb and say:  Don’t stop making New Year’s resolutions!

Author Terry Felber sums up a common problem associated with New Year’s resolutions in one sentence:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to like where you end up.”

The absence of a clear plan for how to follow through with New Year’s resolutions ultimately leads to a feeling of failure days, weeks, or months after the new year. Although many people have an end result (the resolution itself), in mind, they don’t have a plan for how to get there, so…

How do you make a resolution that leads you toward your desired destination and defies the statistics?

  • Avoid diet resolutions and those that focus on a number on the scale. Since 95% of dieters regain their lost weight within 1-5 years, choose to shift your focus to resolutions that lead to long-term health instead.
  • First, decide where you want to end up. For example, many of my clients want to learn to “Eat healthier.” Notice how vague this is? From here, begin formulating a plan. I’ll help you with this…just keep reading…
  • Since eating healthier encompasses numerous actions, choose ONE behavior you’d like to change. If one behavior doesn’t seem like enough, remember this:

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” -Tanzanian Proverb

  • Consider the following as you plan a “SMART” resolution:

SPECIFIC (Who, What, Where, When, Why?): Get specific about which behavior you’ll work on changing first. For example, “I will eat more balanced, home-cooked dinners each week to support my goal of eating healthier.”

MEASURABLE (How will you know you’ve accomplished your resolution?): Decide the number of dinners you’d like to eat at home per week. For example, “I will eat dinner at home 4 nights per week.”

ATTAINABLE (What are the steps to reaching your goal?): What will it take to serve a home-cooked dinner 4 nights per week? You’ll likely need to schedule time to plan meals, repurpose leftovers, make regular grocery store trips, and cook dinner. Having a plan is key!

REALISTIC (How motivated are you? What are the obstacles and how will you overcome them to stay on the path to reaching your goal?): Do you hate planning meals? Sign up for an online service like YourSupperSolution.com to get weekly nutritious dinner menus and recipes delivered to your inbox.

TANGIBLE (How will you experience your resolution or know you’ve reached your goal?): You will be cooking and eating dinner at home more often.

With any resolution, no matter how “SMART” it may be, it is normal to experience obstacles. Rather than giving up or criticizing yourself, remember that habits develop over time and will take time to change. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect a behavior to disappear or change just because the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins. Use each obstacle as a learning experience and an opportunity to re-evaluate and perhaps modify your plan. It may not be realistic to get 4 home-cooked dinner meals on the table 52 weeks out of the year, and THAT’S OK! Don’t let discouragement related to statistics or previous failures rob you of achieving your resolution to care for yourself in a healthy way this year.

Oh…and don’t forget: You can make a resolution any time of year, not just January 1st!


I’d love to hear about your SMART resolutions for the year…send me an e-mail or share in the comments below. If you know someone who may need some encouragement or guidance in goal-setting, share this post or this clip from http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/iframe?pf_id=1&show_title=0&va_id=6154181&windows=1“>ABC 24’s Local Memphis Live with them!

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Top 5 Tricks to Help Your Kids Manage Halloween Treats

Registered Dietitian Blair Mize's Top 5 Tricks for Helping Kids Manage Halloween Candy and Treats

Do you find the gobs of goodies that accumulate at Halloween a bit scary? You’re not alone! Check out my Top 5 Tricks for helping your kids manage their Halloween treats below:

Trick #1

One instance when it’s good for kids to be picky…

Don't be scared when your kids bring home piles of Halloween candy. Have them pick their favorites, and repurpose the leftovers.


Trick #2:

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Eat a balanced dinner before trick-or-treating. Plan a potluck with neighbors or friends.


Trick #3:

Helping your kids enjoy Halloween treats starts today with having a conversation and modeling a healthy, non-diet approach to food for your kids.

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Teach your children how to manage candy and sweets. Sweets can be enjoyed and planned into meals.


Trick #4:

Don’t be scared of this one…

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Deprivation often leads to overeating. Here's a strategy to prevent feelings of deprivation.

Check out Ellyn Satter’s Book, Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming for more information about raising your children to have a healthy relationship with food.


Trick #5:

If this sounds crazy, take a look at this website for a more detailed explanation:

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Have a plan to help your kids manage their candy.

Happy Halloween! 

I’d love to hear how you manage Halloween treats at your house in the comments below!


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